Any worries of a Winter Classic hangover were quelled early when the Ladd-Bolland-Havlat dominated the first few minutes. They were rewarded with a goal when Martin Havlat squeaked a one-timer past Mikka Kipprusoff with the help of Duncan Keith and Andrew Ladd. The line ended up controlling the tempo most of the game. Matched up against Calgary’s top line of Conroy, Iginla, and Cammalleri, the ‘third line’ was nails in the defensive zone and helped slap a -4 on Iginla and Cammalleri.
Basically the story in this one was the ‘Hawks had a better second period than the Flames had third. The teams ended up even on shots with 36 apiece. The ‘Hawks chased Kipprusoff in the second and Khabibulin did what he does against Calgary since the ’04 Cup Finals, dominate. The Flames had plenty of chances to knot it up in the third but each chance, Khabby came up with the save. Expect to see a steady diet of Khabibulin for the next couple weeks. Quenneville will want to grab as many points as possible with Kane out for an extended period and the best way to steal points is with hot goaltending.
In the second period, once the Fugitive tied it a minute into the frame, the ‘Hawks peppered Kipprusoff. After the ‘Hawks couldn’t get anything going on consectutive power plays, the ‘third line’ scored on a delayed penalty when Duncan Keith found Havlat on the side of the net who one-touched it to a wide open Andrew Ladd who beat Kipprusoff down low. Then when Calgary went on the power play a minute later, Dion Phaneuf (who had a particularly brutal game) coughed up the puck at the blue line, Versteeg streaked past him, held off a motivated Adrian Aucoin, and slipped it through Kipprusoff’s legs. The ‘Hawks caught a break with twelve seconds left after Craig Conroy back-slammed Havlat in front of the net, the refs blew the whistle even though Calgary never touched the puck. Had the whistle never been blown, the period would’ve ended with the ‘Hawks getting a power play. Instead, they were rewarded with a face-off in the offensive zone and some hard work by Sharp, Toews, and Byfuglien (who returned moments earlier after getting a puck in the face) led to a goal with only a second and a half left.
A couple of side notes: Though the ‘Hawks notched a power play goal, the absence of Kane was noticeable to even the most novice fan. It was a struggle for them to merely establish the zone and once they did, the unit seemed to lack a flow.
Martin Havlat is beautiful. Keith, Ladd, and Khabibulin were the three stars but Havlat was the biggest difference-maker of them all. He had a goal and an assist and was the best player on the ice whenever his skates touched it. I wonder if anyone still wants him?
Matt Walker is not. You know the team you follow is good when you have to complain about their sixth defenseman but I’m tired of teams sustaining pressure because his feet and decision making are too slow. He gets credit for taking on Andre Roy but I was more relieved he was guaranteed to be off the ice for five minutes than anything else.